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12/13/2013
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Former Homeland Security CIO Tapped As Startup CEO

Richard Spires, former IRS and DHS IT chief, takes the helm as CEO of Resilient Network Systems.

Former Homeland Security Department CIO Richard Spires is jumping back into the startup technology world as the new CEO of Resilient Network Systems, a San Francisco-based provider of Internet servers designed to protect data and application content.

Spires, who until last May led DHS's overall IT operations and managed a $5.6 billion annual budget portfolio, will be taking the helm of company still in its infancy but backed by some notable technology heavyweights. Among them are Bill Coleman, founder of BEA Systems, and Jonathan Hare, founder of Consilient, an Internet software firm that pioneered XML-based collaborative application technology.

Resilient Network Systems specializes in Web-scale infrastructure, developing trusted networks for sharing sensitive information. The company's Access Server and Trusted Broker software create trusted environments over the Web using an advanced set of controls to authenticate user identities and permit the flow of sensitive information between disparate organizations and users.

The company's "trust networks" allow healthcare providers, for example, to discover and access information over the Web while preserving security and the privacy of its users. The company, founded in 2008 and financed with angel funding, is targeting enterprise customers in healthcare, supply chain, education, and government.

[Are your IT program management disciplines where they need to be? Read Lessons For HealthCare.gov: Former DHS CIO Talks Recovery.]

Spires is hardly a stranger to startup businesses. After spending nearly 17 years directing technical initiatives for the financial, telecommunications, and legal markets for SRA International, Spires succeeded in raising funds to spin out Mantras, a data analytics firm. The company was subsequently acquired, reportedly providing a substantial positive return for its investors.

Spires told InformationWeek via email that his decision to join Resilient was based on several criteria: "I wanted to be in a firm that I felt culturally aligned with; which I could make a significant contribution; and that has the potential to make a big positive difference in the markets it serves," he said.

"In my eight years in government, both at IRS and DHS, I faced issues with how to address sharing information and conduct transactions with outside stakeholders, whether it be taxpayers, state and local governments, law enforcement agencies, or corporations." He said traditional approaches to identity management, security, and privacy do not adequately address these issues. He said Resilient Network Systems offers "game-changing technology that has the potential to help many vertical markets, including healthcare, education, manufacturing, and government."

Spires said he plans to stay in the Washington, D.C., through 2014, due to personal commitments, but will spend a "significant percentage of his time in San Francisco" and then reassess next fall whether to relocate, depending on "what is best for the company."

Richard Spires (Photo by Zaid Hamid)
Richard Spires (Photo by Zaid Hamid)

Spires led one of the government's largest business IT modernization projects for the Internal Revenue Service, eventually become IRS CIO and a deputy commissioner for operations before being recruited to the Homeland Security Department's top IT post. He also gained a broad perspective of government IT and security issues as vice chairman of the Federal Government CIO Council and as co-chairman of the Committee for National Security Systems (CNSS).

"Richard Spires's experience at the IRS and DHS uniquely qualifies him to understand the challenges of delivering robust security and privacy while sharing highly sensitive data across disparate organizations … on a national scale," said Resilient founder Jonathan Hare in a statement. Hare, who had been CEO, will now serve as executive chairman.

Company sources said Bill Coleman, a lead investor in Resilient through Alsop Louie Partners (ALP) who once served as the company's CEO, will continue to serve as board director. Coleman, who earlier in his career cofounded Sun Microsystem's federal division after a career in the US Air Force, said, "[Spires] understands exactly how our neutral platform and ecosystem of partners can solve many of the thorniest problems in the public and private sectors."

Wyatt Kash is editor of InformationWeek Government.

Moving email to the cloud has lowered IT costs and improved efficiency. Find out what federal agencies can learn from early adopters. Also in the The Great Email Migration issue of InformationWeek Government: Lessons from a successful government data site. (Free registration required.)

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WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
12/16/2013 | 4:00:21 PM
Re: The revolving door takes another spin
Marilyn, a glimpse of how that would be used can be seen in our story, NGA Cloud Demo Shows Power Of Virtual Organizations, where multiple organizations, each with their own data sets, security rules, etc,, are able to share information in a common ecosystem that provides a platform, rules for engagement, and identitiy management tools to support multiple organizations/users and their ability to collaborate all without having to rebuild their systems or rules.   I can't speak for how well Reslitient deals with these issues, but in the end, agencies need to exchange information inside and outside of their domains and generally have to jump through many hoops to do that now.

 
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
12/16/2013 | 10:07:10 AM
Re: The revolving door takes another spin
I think you are right, Wyatt, that the healthcare sector would be an easier sell to the investment community than general government but I'm also curious to hear your thoughts on some of the possible use cases Resilient Networks might be pitching to Defense, DHS & DOJ as well as HIT. 

 
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
12/13/2013 | 6:22:00 PM
Re: The revolving door takes another spin
Actually, I'm not so sure government will be at the top of Spire's list.  First, he'll be making decisions as a CEO, not as a vertical industry ombudsman, as Vivek Kundra and many other government CIOs have often been cast.  So he'll be looking at his company's prospects like any other investment portfolio manager, and he's good at that.  Additionally, knowing what Richard Spires knows about the government IT process, he may decide that government is a good long term play, but tellling investers you're targeting government customers doesn't  engender a lot of enthusiasm from the Silicon Valley investment crowd. So as CEO, he'll likely play up the healthcare sector more than government.

That said, the Defense Department, DHS, the Department of Justice and a host of other agencies all need the kind of technology RNS is proporting to offer.

 
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
12/13/2013 | 6:02:47 PM
Re: Game changing
From my experience, Richard Spires isn't prone to hyperbole.  So if he thinks its game-changing, there's probably something pretty compelling under the hood. 
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
12/13/2013 | 4:35:42 PM
The revolving door takes another spin
I'm guessing that target customer listed last -- government -- is probably going to first on Spires' hit list. Salesforce.com took advantage of former U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra's connections to lead that company's government initiatives. There's no bigger spender on security technology than government. 
chris.williams.deusm
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chris.williams.deusm,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/13/2013 | 2:18:20 PM
test
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
12/13/2013 | 2:07:13 PM
"Game-changing technology"
That's a high bar, Spires is setting for his new company when he describes the focus of the  startup as "game-changing technology that has the potential to help many vertical markets, including healthcare, education, manufacturing, and government." Quite a change frm his last gig at Homeland Security and the IRS.

 

 
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